Sharpening students’ science skills

Students at Prior Park Prep School are to sharpen their science skills this term, by investigating a radio claim that, “Lead pencils can be used to write for 35 miles”.

The Heart FM Radio claim was broadcast as part of a show in March and heard by science teacher Ms Heywood, when driving to work at Prior Park Prep School near Swindon. 

Having an investigative mind the claim raised many questions for science teacher Ms Heywood, such as: What graphite grading of pencil could write 35 miles? What is the impact of how the pencils are sharpened? Would the pencils last less time if the pressure of the writer’s hand was greater?

As a result, Ms Heywood took the claim back to her Year 7 class and challenged her pupils to find a method to prove whether this was fact or fiction. 

For fun she also tweeted the work back to Heart FM Radio and received a surprise response. Ms Heywood was then invited for interview live on air the next day, to discuss the children’s experiments.

Willingly Ms Heywood chatted with Heart FM Radio only to find that, a local stationer Dilly Dilly of Corsham were listening to the show and wanted to donate 35 German made Swarovski Crystal pencils, in order to support the ‘budding scientists’ in their experiments and ensure that a ‘fair test’ was carried out. 

With pencils in hand, Ms Heywood is now organising for a select group of 4 students to undertake thorough investigation of the claim using the donated pencils, before returning to Dilly Dilly of Corsham with their findings.

As a school focused on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art & Maths) we’re keen to find inspiring opportunities for our adventurous minds. This will be a fun different way to improve the children’s science knowledge, entrepreneurial abilities and problem solving skills, through a practical challenge. Each of the children will need to come up with a reliable testing method and explore different approaches. With such boundless imagination the children have already come up with some great ideas including: using a water wheel to get the pencils to write continuously; recording what ½ a pencil can write and multiplying; and looking at the mass of graphite of a pencil before and after writing 1m. It’s great to have Dilly Dilly’s donation of pencils and we’ll be reporting back to them with our findings, later this term.

Mrs Palak Heywood, Head of Science and Assessment

As a former Head of Science my wife Ally often gives these pencils away to Primary aged children who come into our shop with their parents…we are keen to support science in schools… and we welcome any news on your results.

Stuart Cotton, Business Development Director, Dilly Dilly
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Swindon Advertiser, May 10 2017